Paper No. 42-1
Presentation Time: 1:35 PM
A BRIEF EARLY HISTORY OF GEOSCIENCE AT UNLV: FROM TUMBLEWEED TECH TO TOP TIER
The UNLV Geoscience Department as we know it today was founded in 1972. However, the history of geoscience education in Las Vegas goes back much earlier, with the first courses in Physical Geology, Physical Geography, and Historical Geology taught in Las Vegas High School in 1954, prior to campus build-out. In the 1950s the first field geology trips were organized for introductory-level students, to Red Rock Canyon, Tule Springs, and other sites. In 1961, Science-Technology Building was completed to house Geoscience and other units, being the fourth building on campus in what was largely a vacant desert lot. The first bachelor’s level geology curriculum was developed by Anne Fenton Wyman in 1966, making UNLV Geoscience one of the first to be founded by a woman, and the first B.S. degrees were awarded in 1970. Expansion of the University kept pace with population growth in Las Vegas through the 1960s and 1980s, as the full-time numbers grew from one to eight. Following this growth, the Board of Regents approved a stand-alone Department of Geoscience in 1972, under the leadership of Dr. John Wilbanks as Chair. The Department’s field camp at Angel Peak, in the Spring Mountains northwest of Las Vegas, trained a generation of field geologists between around 1972 until it was closed in the early 1980s. Gradually, the other science departments vacated Science Hall, and it was rededicated solely to Geoscience in 1985 as Lilly Fong Geoscience, with the support of the namesake and former regent. Growth continued, with a Master’s program accepting the first students in the Fall of 1982. The 1990s saw another surge in growth with faculty increasing to around 16 full time tenure-track faculty. The PhD program accepted the first student in 1999. Today, UNLV Geoscience has an active MS and PhD program supported by 21 faculty, around 60 graduate students, and several hundred undergraduate majors, with top-tier research being completed in state-of-the-art analytical facilities.